Misunderstanding Terraforming Mars


Appears to exist, adding some expansion content to the official DLC. Includes automated board setup and a score calculator.


There goes my interest level. :( One of my issues with tableau games is that they push everyone into playing multiplayer solitaire. Here we are, playing boardgames, but everyone’s nose is down in his own corner of the table, doing his own thing, and why did I need you guys here for that?

I realize that’s fine for some people, but I do plenty of solitaire boardgaming on my own, thankyouverymuch. Part of what I like about Terraforming Mars is how interactive it is with jockeying for position on the board, the difficult decisions during drafting, and the awards and milestones. It’s one of those rare tableau builders where I can’t just keep my nose down in my own corner of the table.

“Oh, look, I got a queen, two rooks, and a bishop. You got three pawns and a knight. But at least it makes chess a shorter game when we only draw four pieces!”



You can’t keep your nose down in Underwater Cities either. The standoffs for when you’re willing to take a hit to pick up scoring cards, the race to reach goals before opponents, and the pretty tight worker placement spots you’ll be fighting over benefit being aware of your opponent plenty for me.

I don’t enjoy nearly solitaire experiences unless they’re really quick (like Jump Drive or Roll for the Galaxy), which Underwater Cities is not. But you and I have historically had different definitions of solitaire. For instance, I think it’s essential to track other player’s goals in Trajan, and would argue it has more interesting interaction there than Terraforming Mars does.

Underwater Cities does have a solo mode that seems to get some love. On the downside, I’ve heard it’s not great at 4 players (which I haven’t tried myself) so I’ll probably stick to playing it at 2 and 3, which is pretty restrictive.


Oh man, you are gonna love Wingspan. Imagine Terraforming Mars without drafting and without any map. Player interaction seems limited to very occasional glomming off of the effects of other players’ cards. There’s a set of end-round goals that you score by having more of something than other players… or, for “less” (zero) player interaction you can flip that board over and just score however many you have. The game includes a solitaire mode, but how is it different than just playing the standard rules with one player? But it’s a pretty game with a dice tower that looks like a bird feeder, so it’ll sell like hotcakes. (I might even buy it :P)


… Okay that game looks kind of great. Maybe I do like solitaire games…


I forgot to mention if there’s one thing worse than multiplayer solitaire with no interaction, it’s worker placement games where the only interaction is cockblocking. :)

But, yeah, I didn’t mean to suggest you aren’t competing against other players. I’m just talking about where gameplay doesn’t really intersect with the other players in any way other than as a race to the most points. It sounds like Underwater Cities does that, but that some players are going to be stuck competing for the same score cards. Which means the guy with no competition for his score card has it easier?

I’m sure it’s not as simple as I’m making it sound. I’m still curious about Underwater Cities for the Bioshockness, but not enough to actually buy it. I guess I just really prefer some physical shared space drawing all the players together.

Speaking of not curious enough to actually buy it:

Yikes, that sounds terrible. All those pictures of different birds don’t really look interesting to me. You’ve seen one bird, you’ve seen 'em all.



By the way, I don’t doubt this at all. Terraforming Mars is still just an economic engine builder that is mainly good for its theming. Trajan is one of the few Stephen Feld games I know, and I don’t doubt it deserves its reputation, but I just can’t get past the mancalas. That’s just a weird tomchick issue that has no bearing on my appreciation of the design. I’ll have to stick to Bora Bora.



Yeah, the interaction in the game is primarily negative, much more so than most Euros. I think I like this about it, but the jury’s still out. Once it fully comes to bite me I may change my mind.

What makes it not as simple as it sounds is the scoring cards are from a random set that have overlapping bonuses. For instance, in my last game, there was a card that gave end game points for money, one for biomatter, and one for upgraded desalination plants. Upgraded desalination plants produce money and biomatter! So my friend and I both rushed towards building towards that scoring combo. My friend grabbed 2 of the cards and I grabbed the other about halfway through the game. This gave me enough time to try rejiggering my operation to focus on algae farms and shoot for the other scoring objectives while my opponent continued doubling down on her bonuses.

This kind of race that pushes your engine in a weird direction towards the mid-point is one of the more interesting parts of the design (and has a lot of overlap with Vladmir Suchy’s last game Pulsar 2849, although there the goals are not exclusive).


Hmm, okay, that does sound kind of cool. I love having my economic engines pushed in weird directions.

I didn’t realize it was the Pulsar #### guy. I believe @Shieldwolf has that and now I’m curious to try it. As for Underwater Cities, it seems it’s not available anywhere yet, so that’s one less game tempted me to get it.



Tell us what you think if you play it. I think it’s more up your alley than Underwater Cities.

Underwater Cities got picked up for US publishing by Rio Grande so it should be hitting the states at some point next year. I ended up pre-ordering from the European publisher Delicious Games who are super friendly, but it sounds like Rio Grande may be improving some of the components so it may be worth the wait.


I didn’t want to turn the boardgaming thread into a “your favorite band sux” thread, but I absolutely hated my one game of Pulsar ####. You got me stoked to try it, but by the time I was a few turns in, I was pretty much done with it. I think part of the issue was that half of the players knew the game already and even after the teaching, I didn’t have a handle on what was going on. It didn’t really click until we were well into the game and I was the guy lollygagging way back at the rear of the victory point track.

But mainly, it just felt so arbitrary and dry. A bunch of random icons conspiring to do various things to give you points. I didn’t get a sense for any sort of setting, or economy, or even tone. It felt dry and theme-less. Points salad, hold the dressing.

But based on what you’re saying, I feel like I’ve got to be missing something. Maybe it’s because we were playing the babygame without the unique factions? Or maybe I need to experience the variety that comes with the modular tech tree? Or maybe I should have paid closer attention to whatever those tiles were that you fit together to give you red dice?

But the pervasive feeling I had pretty much the whole time was, “Why aren’t we just playing Project Gaia?” :(



Aw man that’s too bad. I was hoping it would be the salad to win you over!

It is incredibly harsh scoring. I’ve had 100 point gap between first and last place. It’s also totally arbitrary and dry, fully agree. The fact that everything looks like candy makes that okay for me. I’m not sure why, but it does. The unique corporate pyramids will definitely not win you over. I like them. They open up the game a very slight amount. But they’re not very powerful and it’s common in my experience for winning players to use them very little or not at all.

I think the game does improve with repeat plays. Primarily because of the different end-game scoring bonuses more so than the different techs. To win, you really need to master 2 or 3 of the end-game bonuses. This focuses everyone on the same subsection of the game and makes it much snippier. For instance, if the explorer lady is in play, we’ll be fighting over planet placement the whole game. Trying to mix those advantaged areas and steal them from your opponents lends a lot of variability and aggression to the game. Plus, it significantly amplifies the importance of the engineering track. But it takes a few plays before everyone’s doing that, and if you hated the game it’s probably not worth the trouble!

I don’t think you’re actually missing anything. There was at least one part each of my friends loved in the game that pulled them through to the part where we’re all harshly competing. My friend who hates Euros loved fighting over the turn order and engineering track. My friend who hates random elements in games loved planning a strategy through the tech tree. I, on the other hand, loved flipping over planets, getting random bonuses and trying to figure out how to make them work. There were enough threads that at least one of them clicked for everyone. If none of them clicked for you, though, I think that’s unlikely to change.

I haven’t played the Gaia Project yet, primarily because my most common playgroup hates Terra Mystica. @Dave_Perkins has totally reversed my opinion on TM now that we’ve played a few online games and I’m hankering to find someone to play GP with. Those tech trees instead of cult tracks sound like a huge improvement!


Someone gave me $50 for a board game and I almost bought Gaia but instead bought Inis.

True story!


Bad choice! I hated Inis the few times I’ve played it. But it is the best looking game on the market, in my opinion.

Maybe it’s just another game that’ll show up online and you’ll show me why it’s great.


Yeah, I can see how those three goals would make for very different games (it’s one of the reasons it reminds me of Gaia Project). We did have the explorer lady, and in the beginning of the game, I figured I’d go that route. But I didn’t really have a sense for how expensive movement, and therefore, exploration would be. Also, that was one of the parts of the game that a) I didn’t quite understand and b) was taught wrong.

However, your enthusiasm for it goes a long way. I should just chalk it up to a bad first playthrough and try it again. And I’m still really intrigued by Underwater Cities.

Actually, that part was pretty cool! With the mean, the jockeying for position, the trade-off between a high die and movement on the two scales. I really liked that system, partly because I can’t really think of anything like it.

Oh dear, really? You should probably get on that, and drag your Terra Mystica-hating playgroup with you. Gaia Project smooths out the idiosyncratic bits that could make Terra Mystica so esoteric. It still feels like Terra Mystica, but it’s like Terra Mystica should have been.

And that asymmetry is soooo delicious.



Don’t listen to Mr. Napkin! Inis is great. In fact, I think you made the right call over Gaia Project!

However, Inis doesn’t play like other games in that you’re not going to win just by being good or lucky or beating on other players or expanding or whatever. You have to carefully set up a win with the card drafting, time it, and outbluff the other players into letting it happen. And that requires intimate familiarity with the available cards. When you teach Inis, I feel you also have to teach all the cards, one by one.



Yeah, I think I’m not smart enough for Inis. Every time I play it I feel like I’m swimming in regret.


Whew, @porousnapkin broke my heart and then you picked up the pieces.

When you say you teach the cards, I assume it’s just the 13 action cards, not also the epic tales and the advantage cards?


Playing with the beta draft and its quite addicting, though some of the issues, like seeing your cards, are still missing.

I finally beat solo game as well


Yeah I am still digging it on PC as well. Still annoyed there is no post game mode where I can look at things but that aside its a satisfying port.